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The Central European Mission
IN the previous chapter we have seen the Adventists gradually awakening to a sense of the extent and greatness of the work committed to them, and sending out laborers to different parts of the United States, even as far as to the Pacific Coast. They were now, in the providence of God, to enter Europe.
In the year 1864 there returned to the old country a Polish convert to Protestantism from the Roman Catholic Church, by the name of M. B. Czechowski. He had heard the Seventh-day Adventist views at a tent-meeting held at Findlay, Ohio, and had at least nominally accepted the doctrines, though not connecting definitely with the movement. Desiring to go to Europe as a missionary, he sought and obtained the support of the First-day Adventists. Entering Europe under their direction, he began to labor in the Piedmont Valleys, where, in spite of hardships and opposition, he remained about fourteen months. He thereupon entered Switzerland, established a paper called The Everlasting Gospel, which was published regularly for two years, and continued to preach not only on the second advent, but also on the Sabbath and the other truths peculiar to Seventhday Adventists.
On New Year's Eve, at the beginning of 1867, a little company of believers at Tramelan pledged themselves to keep the Seventh-day Sabbath, and in the following July eight candidates were immersed at nightfall. About two months later there was another baptism, at which four candidates, also from Tramelan, observed the rite. A series of meetings held at Chaux-de-Fonds resulted in raising up converts also in that place, and the number of believers steadily grew.
Mr. Czechowski left Switzerland in the winter of 1868-69, to enter upon active propaganda of the same truths in Rumania, where his unfamiliarity with the language made progress slow, though here also some converts were made to the truths taught. The later life of this first messenger of Adventism to enter European territory was unfortunate. He died at a hospital in Vienna early in 1876. Though working in an independent and rather irresponsible way, this man had planted good seed; some of it had fallen into good ground, and was to spring up and yield an abundant harvest.
Later, after Mr. Czechowski had left them, some of his followers in Switzerland learned providentially, through a stray copy of the Review and Herald, of the Adventist publishing house in Battle Creek, Mich., and opened up correspondence with the brethren there. They appealed for help, and were invited to send a representative to the General Conference to be held in Battle Creek in May, 1869. The invitation was accepted, and James Erzenberger, a young German Swiss, was sent on this mission, but arrived in June, too late for the conference. Nevertheless, he remained for a time, to become more familiar with the truth and to acquire some knowledge of the English language. He was soon able to speak in English at various camp-meetings. He returned to Switzerland in September, 1870, feeling well repaid for his visit. In June, 1870, Ademar Vuilleumier came to America to spend some years in preparing himself for the work of preaching the message in his native land.
These visits from abroad, combined with the earnest calls for help that continued to come from time to time, led to the establishment of the Central European Mission. It was at the General Conference in August, 1874, than J. N. Andrews was selected to open up work in Europe. He sailed from Boston September 15, accompanied by his son Charles M. and his daughter Mary F. and by Ademar Vuilleumier. The party arrived at the city of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, about a month later. On November 1 there was
held at Neuchâtel the first general meeting of European Seventh-day Adventists, representatives being present from the companies in Tramelan, Locle, Chaux-de-Fonds, Fleurier, Bienne, and Buckten. No very definite conclusions having been arrived at, a second meeting was appointed to be held at Locle two weeks later. At this meeting it was decided to raise the sum of 2,000 francs for the purpose of spreading the truth by means of publications, and the brethren present showed their earnestness and willingness to help, by giving 1,800 francs on the spot. A committee of three, consisting of J. N. Andrews, Albert Vuilleumier, and Louis Schild, was appointed to take the oversight of the work during the ensuing year.
A still more general meeting of believers was convened in January, 1875, at Chaux-de-Fonds, " for the transaction of business, for the celebration of the ordinances, and for the worship of God." It was decided at this gathering that Elders Andrews and Erzenberger should visit certain German Sabbath keepers in Elberfeld, Prussia, from whom communications had been received, the sum of 300 francs being raised to defray the expenses of the trip. The day after the meeting the brethren accordingly started for Elberfeld, lying 300 miles to the north.
On their arrival they found a company of forty-six Sabbath keepers scattered over a considerable territory. These persons formed the congregation of J. H. Linderman, a former preacher of the Reformed Church. In 1850 Mr. Linderman had been led
by his own study of the Scriptures to embrace the Bible doctrine of baptism by immersion, in which he was followed by part of his congregation. On further study of the Bible, he found that it afforded no basis for Sunday observance. He accordingly stepped out once more, and began to observe the seventh day as the Sabbath. This further change of views was naturally a cause of separation between himself and the congregation which had followed him on the doctrine of baptism. For three years he kept the Sabbath alone; but in course of time his example and teaching began to produce an effect, and others joined him.
The Seventh-day Adventist brethren learned of these Sabbath-keeping Germans through a wanderer who was given a night's lodging at the house of one of the sisters living near Basel. When told of the Adventist belief, he in turn informed his hostess that there were people of the same faith near Elberfeld, and gave her the address of Pastor Linderman. This opened the way for correspondence with J. N. Andrews, and led to the ensuing visit. When these brethren, who, for aught they knew, were alone in keeping the seventh day, learned of the Sabbath reform message that was being preached in America, and had now begun to be given also in Europe, their hearts were greatly cheered, and they wept tears of joy.
Upon closer acquaintance it was discovered that this little company of Sabbath keepers had also been led, by their unaided study of the Scriptures, to look for the soon coming of the Saviour, and like their brethren in America, they had given up tobacco, almost universally used in that part of the country, and observed great simplicity in dress. They were employed, for the most part, in weaving, the looms being set up in their own homes, an arrangement especially favorable to Sabbath keeping. After spending about a month holding meetings with this company and others who could attend, Elder Andrews returned to Switzerland, leaving Brother Erzenberger to follow up the interest.
Letters were now coming from various parts of Switzerland, Germany, and Holland, from persons who had seen the advertisements the brethren had inserted in the leading newspapers, and who wished to know more about the Adventist doctrines. It was necessary, therefore, to provide tracts and other literature in the leading European languages, in order that honest inquirers might receive the light they sought. Elder Andrews again applied himself diligently to the study of the French language, and began to print a series of tracts, the first of which
were issued at Neuchâtel. Later a Basel publisher was employed.
At the second annual meeting, held at Bienne, Dec. 12, 1875, and attended by a good representation from the various small companies, it was reported that there had been published in French during the year 10,000 copies of the tract, "Which Day Do You Keep, and Why?" and 3,000 copies each of "The Millennium," "The Second Advent," "The Two Thrones," "The Judgment," and "The Sanctuary." The chief business of this conference was the organization of a tract and missionary society, modeled on the lines of those already in operation in America, in order that the literature now available might receive the widest possible circulation by the united efforts of all the believers. Instruction was also given on the subject of systematic benevolence, and pledges were taken to the amount of $460.
Meanwhile the message was being preached in various places. In the previous June, Albert Vuilleumier had baptized a company of twelve at La Coudre, and in August the rite was administered to eight persons at a charming spot near the north end of Lake Neuchâtel. The truth was also making some headway in Germany, under the labors of James Erzenberger, who found an especially good interest in the city of Solingen, near Elberfeld, where he held a course of meetings, resulting in the raising up of a company of sixteen, eight of whom were baptized on Jan. 8, 1876.
About this time a new impetus was given to the work by the arrival of D. T. Bourdeau and his family, who were sent from America to labor among the French people in Switzerland and France. They settled at Locle, Switzerland, whither Elder Andrews also removed, and Elder Bourdeau, who knew the French language, having been educated in Canada, began a course of lectures in March. The meetings were well attended, and among those who accepted the truth was Louis Aufranc, the leading teacher in a school of that city.
The time had now come when the brethren felt able to begin the publication of a monthly journal to give further publicity to the message. The new journal was called Les Signes des Temps (The Signs of the Times), and Basel, lying on the boundary line between Switzerland and Germany and not far from France, was wisely chosen as a publishing center, and as the headquarters of the European Mission. To this place Elder Andrews accordingly moved with his family in the spring of 1876. The first number of the new journal appeared in July,